Apologies for the abrupt ending of the last blog.  Sitting below decks when it got a bit choppy and not having been on the boat for almost three months was not conducive to continuing to type!  I had to get horizontal fast, but thankfully kept everything where it should have been.  The other stories from Derry will have to keep.  Apart from the one where I came out of the crew brief with a pair of knickers in my pocket.  Long story, but the laundry got muddled up and one of the girls from Ichorcoal got a pair of my pants, which I duly reclaimed before being told where we were going and what horrible sea states we were likely to encounter.

The race start was down the end of the River Foyle, off a town called
Greencastle.  A beautiful little town that we had walked around a few days prior.

We had a proper racing start, about which I was more than a little apprehensive.  Having to move from side to side as we tacked was going to be challenging at the very least, but I seemed to manage without getting in anyone’s way too badly.  We headed off back down the river to begin, around a couple of marks and then off into the Irish Sea.  As usual, on every race start day so far, I copped a double night shift.  I was beginning to remember why, when I was on the boat, I wanted to be at home!

But it was a bit like riding a bike.  Once you get back on it all comes flooding back.  I quite quickly have got used to being woken up after only three or four hours sleep.  And so far, I seem to have made it without adding to my injury.  Everyone is being very considerate, and not giving me the heavy duty jobs – not that I was a lot of good at them before that is!

When all the fleet were still mostly together after almost twenty four hours sailing, it was a fabulous sight to look around and see all the boats with their spinnakers flying.  At that point, or some point, we were in about third place.  It seems we have somewhat slipped down the leader boat as I speak.  As usual!!

So far it has been a comparatively calm crossing.  Well, anything would be calm compared to the Pacific – my last leg.  I am still getting ribbed about breaking the helming station.  There has been a fair few sea birds up here in the North of Scotland, and a few puffins that we have passed. Apart from a lone seal, no other life under water though.  I think the best leg for that was the one I missed.

The sea up here is very black, and we have just passed through a fairly narrow channel between the mainland of Scotland and Orkney.  The tide here is about ten knots, either with you or against you.  We were all hoping that we would go through with the tide, but this is Danang we are talking about!  We hit a bit of wind hole just before we got there, so when we came up on deck at 6am this morning we hadn’t got much further than when we went to bed at 2am.  We had until 1pm to get through the channel before the tide turned.  I am writing this at 12.30pm, and we have left John O’Groats on our stern and have left the channel.  Yippee!

The sun has been out today, and it has been beautiful.  Looking at the coming forecast, it looks like today needs to be cherished as rain and wind on the nose is forecast.  Oh what joy – how the memories are flooding back. The sea through the channel was really weird.  Where the current was running the water looked as if it was boiling, but there were huge patches of still water that looked like glass, where apparently the currents are swirling around the patch but not in it.  Very strange.  When we got to the corner and turned right the sky was so blue against the dramatic cliffs it looked amazing.  Very similar to when we turned right coming down from Sydney to Hobart – only this time we are not in the lead.  I did say that our record in five/six days races was very good (one race, one win) but I think this one will blow that theory out of the water.

I have been allocated number five life jacket this time – a real promotion, as every single race up until now I have had the last number going.  I think I prefer the last number, as it seems to put less pressure on me having to know what I am doing!  And, the first time that I wore it, it all came unpacked.  On each side of the life jackets there are two parts of the zip that don’t connect, so that it can be pulled apart if, for some reason, it doesn’t self inflate when necessary.  On occasion this can cause the zip to undo just below it, and then it has to be completely undone and re done up.  This happened at the start of the trip just as I was getting ready to go on deck.  With all my wet weather gear on it was really hot, and dark, and it took me ages to get it back together.  I almost lost the contents of my stomach, but yet again just managed to keep it all contained.

I am getting soft having been on land for so long!